Journal of the San Juan Islands


Court rejects request to halt April 23 council elections

April 5, 2013 · 8:16 PM

By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter

Ballots are in the mail and the April 23 election will proceed.

The Washington state Supreme Court April 2 denied the first two motions in the appeal of the Superior Court decision in the charter amendment lawsuit case, Carlson, et. al. v. San Juan County.

The third motion, whether to permit direct review by the Supreme Court rather than have the case heard by the Court of Appeals, will be decided after opening briefs are filed in the coming months.

Supreme Court Commissioner Steven Goff, ruling for the court on a motion for a preliminary injunction, refused to either halt the April 23 election of three new council members or delay the counting of votes (Lopez School District's bond measure is on the ballot as well). Goff also denied the plaintiff's motion for an accelerated review, setting the case in the ordinary sequence of consideration for its September term.

The decision did not weigh in on the merits of the appeal, but addressed and rejected both of the central grounds of the plaintiff's case, possibly anticipating rejection of the appeal by the full Supreme Court.

On the central issue of "one-man, one-vote" the court reiterated the trial court decision that a countywide vote did not violate any constitutional principles, whether or not the population of the "residency districts" from which candidates are selected are of unequal size. The commissioner's decision said that the plaintiffs "failed to demonstrate a debatable issue on the validity of these charter amendments."

On the allegation that the charter amendments did not comply with the "single subject" rule of Article 11 of the state Constitution, Goff said that the single subject rule applies only to state legislation, not local charter amendments.

Regarding the motion for immediate Supreme Court consideration of the appeal, Goff wrote, "But it does not appear either practical or desirable to accelerate this appeal…."

The Supreme Court retained jurisdiction of the appeal for the present, telling the parties to file briefs arguing their positions. If the court retains jurisdiction, it could order oral arguments in the fall or it could decide not to retain the appeal and return it to the Court of Appeals for a decision.


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